I have read Patrick’s previous poetry collection, which I also reviewed, and I have to say that this book continues in much the same vein. Being a carer to two elderly parents must be hard especially when one of them has dementia and yet, there is a lot here in his poems, which offers positivity and acceptance, and ultimately, a way through something that can dominate life in all but the darkest ways.
What is different about this book to his previous publication is that it does not only contain Patrick’s contributions but also those of other readers, including myself, in this instance; I wrote a poem about my grandmother. Although not a carer to her, I too have seen the debilitating effects that Alzheimer’s can have on a person and have clear memories of my grandmother from an early age as well as those later when she was lost to us all. The poems here resonate with me as a reader as they evoke emotions and memories from my personal experience and there is nothing more satisfying than obtaining a visceral response from a text, deep in your gut that stirs you.
Whilst obviously being an outlet which enables Patrick to deal with his situation, the goodwill emanating from the text is palpable. Poems such as “The Lost and the Found” show the dual-edged sword of dementia as the poet describes how the father that he knows is gradually diminishing and yet, the one that he lives with and is emerging as the days continue likes to dance and experiences joy, however short-lived, a glimmer of light amidst the dark days of repetition and confusion.
This book has not been written with wallowing in mind but it is about demanding, human experience that requires patience and understanding with little to no respite. There is pain here and guilt and fatigue but most of all there is love: it provides a wide exploration of emotion but most of all, it leaves you with warmth.
I would encourage anyone who has any experience of dementia or caring to read Patrick McTaggart’s poems. I think that they are a salve, a crutch, an encouragement – all of these things, and easily accessible; and money raised from the sales go to Alzheimer’s Research UK, which can only be a good thing.